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Of all the Italian varieties that have been rediscovered in the last few decades (of which there are many dozens), Pecorino is one of the most exciting. Found in the Marche and Abruzzo, Pecorino got its name from the sheep herders who used to eat the grapes while tending their flocks. It is a variety adapted to high altitude hillside vineyards with a long, cool growing season, and typically produces very full body wines, with plenty of acidity and delicate flavors. The Pietramore Pecorino is an archetypal example of how delicious these wines can be. Produced from biodynamically farmed vineyards, the grapes are macerated for 10 hours, fermented in steel, rested on the lees for 3 months, and then bottled with a light filtration. Loads of orchard fruit jump out on the nose over apple blossom, mint, and cool mountain air. The palate is full, sporting 14% alcohol, but has plenty of acidity so it feels crisp rather than heavy with flavors of tart apple, anjou pear, and muddled mint. Suited of course to Pecorino cheese it would also pair well with rich chicken or fish dishes, broccoli gratin, pork chops dressed with apples, or other full flavored cheese. Andy Paynter
This 100% Greco is a beautiful example of southern Italian white coming from vineyards within the Sannio DOC, right in the middle of Campania. The vines are planted on clay-rich soils, and the wine is vinified with indigenous yeasts in stainles steel, with a bit of lees contact. With nice intensity and a hint of grip on the palate, this shows notes of orchard fruit (apple and ripe pear) as well as some peach and citrus zest, with a hint of blossom and honeysuckle, framed by good acidity and minerality. Pair with grilled fish and salads.
Guilio Armani (yes that is his real name) has been making fascinating skin contact wines for decades. In some ways, he was ahead of his times, as the Denavolo wines were mostly misunderstood and celebrated by a very small group of obsessed wine drinkers until the “orange wine” fad hit in the last 5 years. A blend of 25% Malavasia di Candia Aromatica, 25% Marsanne, 25% Ortugo, 25% mystery grapes, macerated on the skins for 10 months. Peculiar, aromatic and high-toned. A great introduction to northern Italian skin contact wines.
Another rare wine in the world of Prosecco – a true natural wine, certified organic, made without sulphur, refermented in bottle and aged on the lees. What you get is Prosecco with real character and rich flavor. It’s aromatically bright with lemon notes, and in the mouth is bone dry with refreshing green apple, savory and stony, and great with food with its charming very slightly bitter and fresh finish. A wine that way out-performs at the price. Jamie Wolff
From a single vineyard at 900 meters up the eastern slope of Mount Etna, this white consists of mostly of the region's indigenous Carricante (90%), while the rest is split between grapes like Grecanico and Minella. The 1.6 hectares of vines (the oldest being 40 years of age) are farmed organically and planted/trained in the ancient Alberello Egeo system. The grapes are hand harvested in late September. The wine is fermented with native yeasts, and spends a year in stainless. The nose displays the volcanic character of the wine, with hints of savory smoke balanced by clean orchard fruit and salinity. The palate has a bit of texture, with flavors of pear, lemon, salt and green herbs. David Hatzopoulos
This is a rare item: Clean, crisp dry Prosecco, made from organic fruit, indigenous yeasts, very low SO2. This is a wine that will please everyone – your inner wine geek, and your (here please fill in the blank for your friend or relative who pays no attention to the details but will guzzle it down and ask for more). An amazing value! Jamie Wolff
Passerina is a grape that I have little experience with beyond the wines of La Visciola in Lazio, which is a real shame given the depth of flavor a lifted texture the wines show. An obscure variety native to Lazio (and possibly distinct from a grape also named Passerina that grows along Italy’s Adriatic coast). The 2015 shows a more lifted character than the 2014. The nose is fairly tight on opening, giving notes of tart apple and pear leading into thyme and white flowers after a few minutes in the glass. Medium body with a soft texture and crisp acidity, the flavors show more candied lemon peel, green apple, and tart pear. Try it with grilled fish, potato or white pizza, soft cheese, or cured pork. Andy Paynter
In the heart of the Euganean Hills in the Venetian region of Northern Italy lies the Castello di Lispida, an expansive estate built in 1150 as the Monastery of Lispida. By the end of the 18th Century, Lispida began producing wine and building one of the largest cellars in all of Veneto. By the end of the 20th Century, Dr. Alessandro Sgaravatti began adopting the philosophy of Japanese farmer and thinker Masanobu Fukuoka, a philosophy of “do-nothing agriculture” and total purity of the natural soil. Lispida’s Terralba is a blend of Ribolla Gialla and Fruilliano. Hand harvested in September, the chilled grapes are pressed, gravity fed and fermented in amphorae. Maceration of the skin occurs for 3 weeks.
Lamoscata 2017 is the first wine that Mongioia has made in anfora – in this case ceramic, so not very porous, with a very small exchange of oxygen – this is not Georgian-style wine. Instead I think the anfora confers some extra texture and complexity. How else to explain this quite extraordinarily, crazy complex Moscato, like no other in its class? The nose is multi-dimensional, with intense rich peach and apricot, and hazelnut dominating. The wine is very clean and fresh on the palate, boosted with a hint of green apple and plenty of those stone fruits. They carry through to a very long and lingering finish that seems to be supported and freshened by citrusy, icy spring water. A wild wine – a must try. Jamie Wolff
In the Moscato d’Asti zone, farming is driven by volume over quality – almost all the wine made there is from industrial agriculture and industrial winemaking, which is why Moscato is usually cheap wine in every regard. The fruit for Belb comes from edenic hillside vineyards where chemicals have never been used. The winemaking matches the farming. The result is one in a million (think Moscato from Bera, the best possible alternate to Belb) – a focused wine, fresh and clean, with deep layers showing classic Moscato attributes like apricot and pear, delicate floral hints and nutty flavors. Belb is relatively low in residual sugar so it tastes fruity rather than cloying. We sell a lot of Belb to people looking for Barefoot or one of the other brands; despite the relatively high price they come back for more, converted. Jamie Wolff
Made from organically farmed Carricante grapes from a single vineyard inside the crater that sits towards the top Monte Rosso. The vines here average 70 years old. The ‘18 Crater is more substantial in flavor and weight than their Carricante released in 2017. On the nose, there are essences of smoke, light spices, lemon peel, and tea leaves. The palate is muscular, with a depth of lemon, pear, apricot and pepper flavors. David Hatzopoulos
From organically sourced grapes, this white is 100% Carricante from the lower elevations at Mount Etna's base. The nose is subtle and pretty, with hints of cured lemon, green herbs, and wisps of white flowers. The palate is complex and layered with notes of salty yellow citrus and fresh grass. David Hatzopoulos
Planted at over 700 meters – a high elevation that gives fruit with bright acidity, this is a stellar example of Grillo. The juice is fermented with skins for 3 days – enough to enrich the color and structure of the wine, but this is by no means an orange wine. It shows Grillo’s best (at 12.5° alcohol) with characteristic lemony herbs and mint, delicate floral notes, and firm salinity. The wine is fairy full-bodied, but remains lifted and bright. We drank some recently with grilled salmon (more than we originally intended since it was a school night - oh well - it was just too tasty), but it’s easy to imagine this working well with a big range of foods – or none. It’s a really delicious wine. J Wolff
Orto di Venezia is a striking wine grown on the island of San Erasmo within the lagoon of Venice. Based on Malvasia Istriana but comprised of a number of other local cultivars all planted on its own root stock, the wine is deeply colored in the glass, with a nose reminiscent of ripe golden apples and honeysuckle undercut by a salty tone. The palate is bold, with an initial attack of juicy orchard fruit and rich texture, followed by a honeyed note giving way to a long savory finish. More than anything else, Orto shows a stern backbone of minerality bracing its mellow acidity and weight on the palate. I served it with shrimp cooked with their own stock and butter, but this wine would pair beautifully with anything out of the sea, soft cheese, or rich vegetable dishes. Open early and serve slightly chilled. Andy Paynter
Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Manzoni froma small .6 hectare parcel above the town of Bolzano. The vines are only 10 years old, but are already producing a beautiful, textured white wine, that is both weighty and elegant. Quite floral on the nose, the palate shows notes of white blossom, ripe citrus, apricot, honey, and crushed vitamin candies. Decant before serving, or age for another few years. Oskar Kostecki
Ferdinando Principiano's Timorasso is one of the most fascinating examples of the grape we have encountered. While some expressions of Timorasso can be a bit heavy-handed and blowsy, this one is extremely lithe and charming. Coming in at only 11.2% ABV, it is still very mouth-filling and expressive. The nose opens with beautiful notes of citrus and stone fruit, white flowers, honeysuckle and a slight herbal character. While the nose smells quite rich, the palate is very finely chiselled and holds a lot of tension, with great acidity. Even more citrus on the palate (lemon and lime) with an introduction of crisp green apple, and even more of an herbal quality (tarragon). A supremely satisfying wine. Oskar Kostecki
From Trebbiano, Malvasia and Verdicchio vines owned by the Vitorchiano Trappist Convent in Lazio. The nuns use a touch of copper and sulfur in the vineyards, along with organic fertilizer, before harvesting the grapes by hand. Under the influence/guidance of Poa Bea, this white sees extended skin-contact.
This is a zesty sparkling from the hills of Emilia-Romagna. A blend of organically farmed Trebbiano di Romagna and Pignoletto, fermented méthode ancestrale, and left on the lees in bottle. The nose is a mix of bright citrus fruits (lemon, lime), apple, and fresh grass, paired with more savory aromas of warm herbs. There is a chalkiness on the palate that is both a structural quality and a flavor profile, along with notes of apple and lime. David Hatzopoulos